Saint-Saëns was a fervent disciple of Liszt, and the older man showed his customary generosity to the younger by championing his music—Liszt arranged for Samson et Dalila
to be staged at Weimar, for example—and Saint-Saëns introduced much of Liszt’s orchestral music to French audiences for the first time. Liszt dedicated his Second Mephisto Waltz
to Saint-Saëns, who wrote his Third Symphony for Liszt, eventually inscribing it to his memory. Saint-Saëns was among the earliest followers of Liszt to compose a symphonic poem, and the Danse macabre
is perhaps the best-known of his four works in the genre. Liszt’s transcription extends the original at many points, usually to accentuate the macabre elements and, memorably, to extend the lyrical central section which is rather short in the original. The loss of orchestral colour is more than compensated for by the breadth of variety in the palette of Liszt’s piano writing.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1989